I feared a catastrophe, says British Airways hero

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The Independent Online

The pilot whose skilful crash landing of a British Airways jet averted disaster at Heathrow on Thursday yesterday spoke publicly about the incident for the first time.

Senior First Officer John Coward, who, under the command of Captain Peter Burkill, landed the plane despite the loss of both engines, said of the landing yesterday: "It wasn't just one thud but a series of thuds." This was followed by "an eerie silence" as the jet came to a halt. "I feared a catastrophe," he said.

Meanwhile, operations at Heathrow airport returned to normal yesterday. The airport's schedules had been badly disrupted after the incident, with 221 flights cancelled on Thursday. But a BAA spokeswoman yesterday said: "All operations are returning, with all terminals returning to normal... passengers can resume normal procedures for checking in."

British Airways said it had fully restored its long-haul schedule and had 95 per cent of its short-haul flights running as normal.

The wreckage will be removed from the runway this morning and taken to the eastern BA hangars at Heathrow. Yesterday, investigators remained with the aircraft, having worked through the night to gather possible evidence on the cause of the fault.

The preliminary report by the Air Accidents Investigation Branch into the incident – which left 18 of the 136 passengers needing treatment – is due in about 30 days. The AAIB said its inquiry was now focused "on more detailed analysis of the flight recorder information, collecting further recorded information from various system modules, and examining the range of aircraft systems that could influence engine operation".

It is believed no alarm sounded to warn the pilots of the aircraft's difficulties. The AAIB's initial findings appeared to corroborate claims that the plane had suddenly lost power.